Dear President Obama,
We are now at a point in which you alone, Mr. President, can help us.
There are many reasons why we, the undersigned, do not want Catch Shares/Sector Management to be implemented by NOAA on May 1.
We want to protect the small boat family fishermen and fishing communities. We favor Framework 42 and want a moratorium on Catch Shares/Sector Management for at least 1 year.
NOAA's program of making the fisheries "sustainable and profitable" by avoiding overfishing -- while destroying the family fishing fleet -- is legally, economically, sociologically, and politically misguided. It is not based on sound science. And it is morally objectionable.
Mr. President, our fishermen are asking for the right to fish -- the right to work -- at no cost to the taxpayer.
Thank you for your assistance.
April 10, 2010
Stop NOAA Now
Dear President Obama, while your administration is making valiant efforts to create jobs, even at great cost to the taxpayer, one agency of the federal government, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has for a quarter century been determined to deny fishermen the right to fish and thus it is in effect destroying jobs.
In addition to representatives of the fishing industry and their allies, Mayors of our local communities, U.S. Representatives, and U.S. Senators have petitioned NOAA to change its course, but to no avail. We are now at a point in which you alone, Mr. President, have the power to bring concordance within the ranks of your administration. With the stroke of your pen, you can -- immediately -- stop NOAA in its destructive course.
Preserving the status quo is all that is necessary right now. Long term solutions will have to wait for agreement to be reached among various segments of the population.
The case is simply stated: NOAA's current administration of the Magnuson-Stevens Act has much to be desired; its proposed future action is intolerable.
Mr. President, as a lawyer you know the importance of respect for the laws. Yet, NOAA is administering the Magnuson-Stevens Act in such an arbitrary and capricious way that it is inviting a gnawing doubt whether the laws are administered in the interest of the general population or for the benefit of a selected few. This is not a vague accusation by the fishermen and their allies; a list of rogue actions has been documented by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
NOAA's announced future use of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, through the proposed Catch Shares program, is scheduled to snap into action by May 1. By many estimates, including NOAA's own, the implementation of this policy is going to cut the size of the family fishing fleet by half to seventy five percent.
NOAA's stated intention is to build a fishery that is "sustainable and profitable." The intention is noble; and yet, how and for whom is this goal to be achieved?
An examination of these two questions reveals that the proposed Catch Shares policy:
- is legally, economically, sociologically, and politically destructive;
- is using inappropriate science;
- and is morally reprehensible, since it takes from the poor to give to the rich.
Through the proposed Catch Shares policy, NOAA is allocating 98 percent of the resources to "voluntary" organizations called sectors. In effect, through such a fig-leaf device NOAA is making participation in the sectors a compulsory condition to fish. This is an arrogant misuse of the law.
And by making these shares tradable, NOAA is giving permission to sell resources that it does not own. As a constitutional lawyer, Mr. President, you know that the ocean belongs, not to the federal government, but to the nation as a whole.
In addition to being legally so dangerously misused, NOAA's administration of the Magnuson-Stevens Act is clearly economically misguided because, by destroying jobs, NOAA is destroying the livelihood of fishermen and their families.
Our fishermen are asking for the right to fish -- the right to work -- at no cost to the taxpayer.
Indeed, you well know that the multiplier effect is such that any one job --and any one dollar -- created at sea generates about four jobs and dollars on land. As fishermen need to eat while at sea, the butcher and the baker benefit from their activity.
Fishing vessels need fuel and regular repairs, so the candlestick maker and the banker and the insurance provider patch together a living from the work of the fishermen.
Mr. President, as a community organizer you personally know the value of community. NOAA by its actions is also destroying Gloucester, my community, my polis, and many other similar coastal communities in the United States. It has taken four hundred years to build Gloucester as it is; it is taking but a few years for NOAA to destroy the backbone of our community, the community of fishermen. Once destroyed, a community of human beings cannot be re-created.
The actions of NOAA are politically destructive, because the change that your administration heralded is being nullified by the perseverance of NOAA in its destructive course.
As pointed out in the accompanying Petition to the U.S. Congress to Amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, in its deliberations NOAA is also using inappropriate science.
In brief, Mr. President, there are many reasons why NOAA's best intentions of making the fisheries sustainable by avoiding overfishing --while destroying the family fishing fleet -- are misguided.
The issues are numerous, complex, and interdependent. You can find a good many of them addressed in the archives of our local newspaper at www.gloucestertimes.com. The most important one, however, is a moral reason.
In the end, Mr. President, what is at stake is the moral fiber of our country.
NOAA's policy is morally objectionable, because it takes from the poor to give to the rich. Fishermen, generally the poorest of the poor in a nation, have since time immemorial enjoyed the right of free access to our natural resources.
By allocating 98 percent of the ocean resources to "sectors" that, incidentally, are being paid taxpayers money to be organized, NOAA is making participation in the Catch Shares program a condition to fish.
These shares are expensive: we have heard of something like $700,000 as the value of one such share.
By making these shares expensive and tradable, NOAA is in effect taking from the poor to give to the rich. This is a reverse -- indeed a perverse --Robin Hood policy that cannot be tolerated in a democracy.
Carmine Gorga, PhD, is president of Polis-tics Inc. His latest book is titled The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture.